Ozomatli, Don't Mess With The Dragon (Concord Records, 2007)

Ozomatli, who take their name from the Aztec astrological symbol of the monkey, are a multi-ethnic, multi-genre band from Los Angeles. For nearly a decade, they have combined rock, Latin music, and hip hop with outspoken political views, and are known for the party atmosphere at their shows. Their fourth studio CD has a great edgy title in Don't Mess with the Dragon, but the band have traded in some of their bluntness for more musicality and an increased emphasis on the fun in their music. Only "Magnolia Soul," about New Orleans, reflects the left-leaning politics that the band have typically worn on their sleeve. Naturally this hasn't pleased some of their older fans, but most of the basic elements of the Ozomatli sound remain in place. In fact, the album opens with a great one-two punch of the catchy single "Can't Stop" and an aggressive rap about their hometown called "City of Angels." The rest of the album doesn't quite reach the same heights, but as usual there's a little bit of something for everybody. They rap, they salsa, they get funky, they have group sing-alongs in both English and Spanish, and they generally have a good time. Don't Mess with the Dragon clocks in at under forty minutes, but I like it when bands don't pack their CD's with too much filler material simply because the CD gives them more space to work with.

My general impression of Ozomatli over the years is that they have a great attitude and a great underlying concept, but they haven't yet translated that into a consistently great album. While Don't Mess with the Dragon continues in this vein, it has plenty of good, fun songs to make it worth a few listens.

Overall grade: B


topbeagle said...

Dude, if it is Los Angeles, then it is Mexican-American music. You should probably be more specific since there are specific differences. It is it's own group and genre. You wouldn't label Celtic music just as European. L.A. has an American population of Mexicans (the former country of the land), Chinese and Japanese populations that have been in L.A. for over a 100 years in America , some cases much longer. Like the Pizza in America is different than Italy, so also the cultural contributions of these people from the places there ethnic origins came from, and it should be noticed or it can just lead more misunderstands and exclusion.

digitaldoc said...

I thought they didn't have pizza in Italy. Isn't it an American innovation?

topbeagle said...

I believe the romans had the origin of the pizza which was bread with stuff on it. They certainly had pizza last time I went. I ate it a lot : )
"The history of pizza is cloudy at best, with a variety of theories and speculation. Some claim it is based on the pita bread found in the Mid-East. There is also a theory that pizza came from the unleavened bread "matzo" brought to Rome by Italian legionnaires. Others insist, pizza evolved from the famous "foccacia" served in Rome about 1,000 years ago, as a snack. Another theory is that pizza was brought to Italy by Greeks, during the first century."

digitaldoc said...

The last food channel special I saw traced it back to Little Italy around 1900. I guess this was modern pizza pies.

smg58 said...

The Latino/Spanish/(somebody please give me the right generic term) elements in Ozomatli's music aren't as specifically Mexican as they are in, say, the music of Los Lobos. There's a lot of salsa in it, for example, and I'm not even sure if any one country can claim that. At any rate, their musical influences are generally described elsewhere as Latin, not Mexican.

On the other hand, I'd forgotten to mention where their name comes from when I originally posted this, and that certainly ties in to the Mexican ethnicity of at least a few of the members.

topbeagle said...

There is no proper term yet, Latin - people from basicly Roman desent.That could be greeks and italians too. Hespanic from the Roman name (hespania) for Spain in Latin. Spanish, they speak spanish but they are not from Spain. Most have little spanish blood in them, they are indians , like american indians, from the new world, who have taken Spanish names and language. I am not sure that the country or the people have decided how they will truely intergrate in them in American Society, so it is an open question, and these names will continue to change.

I don't think that Salsa comes out of Mexico. It is more a Caribean thing. Mexicans are great consumers of though, and make their versions of it at times.

The orgins of the band members are not easy to find. Asdru Sierra is from Mexico.

I don't know for sure, I would guess that the band memebers with spanish last names are Mexican since Mexicans make up %80 of the hespanic population in L.A. Also, they seemed to have gotten their start in LA-San Diego-Mexico.

The name of the band is aztec.

I understand now that you using music industry labels. That's cool.Still I think we could do better there. Great Review though.

digitaldoc said...

I've been confused lately on this also as our language evolves. When I was younger, Latin would refer to an ancient dead language, and the Roman Empire. Now it gets applied to folks that speak Spanish.

I think the proper term currently is either Hispanic, or Latino for those Central and South Americans that speak Spanish. Lately, it seems that Spanish gets applied more to the folks that are more directly connected to Spain, and their language.

On the other hand, this all gets quite confusing, but it's kind of fascinating to see our language evolve. I guess this is why the dictionary folks stay in business when we all already own one!